Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.
This is part two of a five part series, part one can be found here.
Part II Coupling Motions: The Head
With either type of track start, there are three important coupling motions that will augment the forces of the swimmer leaving the block and result in a better dive. A coupling motion is a movement of some part of the swimmer’s body that produces no propulsive force by itself, yet increases the forces that create propulsion. The three coupling motions are the head lifting up, the arm motion and the back leg lift for fast swimming starts.
The adult head weighs approximately 12 pounds, so if one moves it around quickly, it can create quite a bit of energy. In martial arts, students learn to use their head as a weapon. It can also become a weapon for the start, if used properly.
The energy that the head provides on the start is related to the square of the speed at which it is lifted. If a swimmer takes his mark with the head extended forward, there is little room to further lift it and less kinetic energy that can be attained from its motion. Further, in the extended position, the swimmer is less relaxed, as the neck muscles are working to maintain that position.
At the sound of the starter’s beep, the head should be in the neutral position (looking down) and snapped upward to full extension as quickly as possible simultaneously with the push off of the block with the feet. This motion also helps project the swimmer forward. If the head is held in the neutral or down position, not only does the swimmer lose out on the coupling motion of the head lift, but he also tends to go downward toward the water, rather than forward.
Of course, once the head is fully extended, it must be immediately fully flexed back down, so that the chin is touching the chest, enabling the arms to get into the streamline position behind the head. With practice, there is enough time on the dive to lift the head fully, and then press the chin back down to the chest, prior to entering the water. How much are you using your head to add to your propulsion on your start?
Yours in Swimming,
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